I wasn’t going to mention this on here, but then blogging collided a little with “real” life, so I changed my mind.
The other day, I got home from a trip north to Cheshire. It was a bittersweet experience. My very dear aunt Dot died suddenly, and it was with a heavy heart that the Twisted Seniors and I made the long journey north to attend her funeral. Dot was Father Twisted’s little sister, and underneath a certain amount of teasing and banter, their mutual affection ran deep, though neither of them would have admitted it.
Nobody was surprised that the service and the wake were packed out, because Dot’s warmth and humour made an impression on everyone she met. She was unfailingly kind-hearted and optimistic and generous. When I mentioned her death to friends and neighbours in our village, many of them reminded me that they met her when she came to stay and that she was lovely. Even the twinnage – whose shyness makes them wary of speaking to pretty much anyone – loved Dot for her playfulness. I felt bad for not taking them to the funeral, but they’ve missed so much school already.
Will you indulge me if I share a few memories, please? I remember first spending time with her and realizing that she was awesome at roughly the age of nine, on the day when this photo of me and my cousins was taken. (Sadly I don’t have a picture of Dot from that day.)
But it was in my late teens that she and I grew properly close. I thought she was cool and interesting. And I spent happy weeks staying with her “oop north”, where we shared our love of mountains, wildlife, literature, and all sorts of Indian food. I even lived with her for a year or so in my early twenties.
Yet Dot’s life wasn’t easy. In early adulthood, she developed the severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that would blight the rest of her days. Let’s just say that the ‘treatment’ – I use that word loosely – that she received back in the day would not in any way be considered acceptable now. On a lighter note, she told me about her time as an inpatient at the famous Bethlem psychiatric hospital in London (origin of the word ‘bedlam’), and how she and a couple of other patients would sneak out in the evening to go and watch a nearby colony of badgers. For this, I admired her: here was a woman who had her priorities right! Dot and I talked OCD for hours and hours and hours and hours. And hours. It’s because of her that I decided to become a clinical psychologist – I wanted to provide something kinder, more collaborative, and more effective than the awful “treatment” she’d endured.
So at the end of last week I went to the funeral, and read a verse (Christina Rossetti’s ‘Remember’). It was good to see family, especially my three cousins. The eulogies – from Father Twisted, and Dot’s first husband, and her current partner – were deeply moving. The saddest thing was thinking at the wake about how much she would have enjoyed the occasion, if only she could have been there.
The thing that prompted me to post all this here was that at the wake, a number of kind people came up, introduced themselves, and mentioned that Dot had led them to this blog and told them all about the twinnage. I had no idea. It’s typical of her generosity of spirit, though, that she spoke kindly to so many people about these ramblings of mine. There was me thinking that the success of this blog was down to the TOTAL BRILLIANCE of my writing, when all along it was just because my dear aunt told the whole world to read it. That’s what led me to write this post: it didn’t feel right to do a ‘normal’ post when, as Dot’s friend Ali rightly said, there’s a Dot-shaped hole in all our lives.
The day after the funeral, we visited the family home for what will likely be the final time, because it’s due to be sold. My grandparents bought this little house in 1970, and they, and then Dot, lived in it until now. I know, I know, it’s just bricks and mortar; time moves on. But I’ll miss this house. I’ll miss its beautiful long, narrow, back garden. I’ll miss chatting to the other people in the terrace.
Rest in peace, Dot. You’ll never be forgotten.
Thank you for indulging me, my Fine, Fibrous Friends. Normal levels of yarny silliness will be resumed next time.